From his first pitch, which nailed Brett Gardner on the right leg and prompted some pointing (and possibly a warning, more on that later) from the home plate umpire Eric Cooper, Jeremy Bonderman exhibited the disposition of a dull teenager enduring the facts-of-life lecture from prattling parents. His annoyed expression and frequent shoulder shrugging suggested he wanted to anywhere else but on the hill at Yankee Stadium. Despite his best efforts to the contrary, he managed to stick around for five innings, seven runs and three homers. In fact, after he drilled Brett the Jet and let up back-to-back jacks (courtesy Teixeira and Cano) in the first, it crossed my mind that Bonderman just might rear back and fire one at Swisher’s melon to earn the automatic heave-ho and the warmth of an early shower. With times being tough all over, I guess the probable suspension was too much of a financial risk, and luckily for the Yanks, he stayed in the game.
As soundly as the Yankee hitters pounded Bonderman’s weak offerings, Dustin Moseley prevented the game from becoming a laugher. For awhile, he was holding the non-Cabrera portion of the lineup at bay, surrendering “only” two solo homers to Miggy through the first four innings. But when Don Kelly brought his .279 career slugging percentage to the plate in the fifth and deposited a hanging breaking ball a few feet over Austin Kearn’s outstretched glove for a two-run home run, the game took on an ominous, too-close-for-comfort feeling that persisted (for me anyway) until it was over.
The battle of the bullpens got interesting in the seventh when Boone Logan and Kerry Wood loaded the bases on three singles. With one out, Wood dug deep and produced big-time strikeouts of Santiago and Raburn. (Other than a few too many walks, Wood has had a really fine first nine innings for the Yankees) Then the Tigers tried to walk the same tight rope, but Austin Kearns played the bully and sent them spilling to the earth with a booming ground rule double to plate two runs and increase the Yankee lead to five.
Buoyed by their escape in the seventh, the Yankees wanted to test their limits in the eighth. Chad Gaudin loaded the bases by hitting Cabrera and walking Peralta on either side of Damon’s single. Why wasn’t Gaudin expelled after hitting Cabrera? Leyland wanted to know. He wanted to know so badly that he asked about 1000 times, with varying degrees of civility, between the plunking and the start of the next inning before finally getting run. Funny thing was, Leyland wanted Gaudin tossed, meanwhile Gaudin was busy bringing the tying run to the on-deck circle. Girardi did what Cooper would not. Enter David Robertson, who wriggled out of the tough jam with three straight outs and only one of the runners crossing the plate.
The Yankees took their turn failing to cash in loaded bases in the eighth, but the real story was new Tigers pitcher Enrique Gonzalez throwing intentionally at Jeter, and possibly Teixeira and Cano as well. He missed each of them however, and the home plate umpire declined to boot him rendering his first inning warning rather confusing and misleading.
Mariano Rivera pitched a spotless ninth in a game full of spots and the Yankees won a see-saw ride at the park 9-5. The way he has dominated in 2009 and 2010 with velocity rarely exceeding 92 mph on any pitch, I’m getting curious, how on earth did anyone ever hit the guy when he was regularly over 95? I wonder if there is anything to learn from his increased success with diminished velocity or if it’s all just a matter of small sample sizes and insignificant statistical differences.
Catching up with other individual players, Granderson had a chance to face a lefty in big moment, but accidentally left his new swing in the on-deck circle and went up hacking with the old one. He whiffed, but seriously, with another home run tonight, he has been hitting very well since the summit with Long. But he also took a few days off around that same time and maybe that cleared his head. Maybe that’s part of his resurgence as well. I mention this because I think Jeter could use a break. He’s 36 and playing every day, and tonight when seven Yankee starters had extra base hits, including Ramiro Pena, Jeter didn’t even take a good swing, let alone have a good at bat (I’m not counting the walk, where the pitcher was trying to hit him, in Derek’s favor). Arod’s injury forces Jeter onto the field, but I hope he gets a few days off in the near future to mentally recharge.
And with that, my streak of crushing losses has come to an end. Thanks, Yanks. Keep it up, the Sox and Rays are rolling.